With upwards of 50 hills, San Fran is the second-hilliest city in the world (just behind La Paz, Bolivia). And that's not to mention the surrounding, sparkling waters of the bay. Many top area restaurants were designed to take full advantage of the city's picturesque topography. Here are our five favorite spots for soaking up the scenery while you dine.
Since opening in 1979, Greens has consistently ranked among the top vegetarian restaurants in the U.S., thanks to head chef Annie Somerville's creative cuisine. Somerville uses local, organic, and sustainable produce for small pesto pizzas and fire-roasted poblano chili. The restaurant's bayside location certainly doesn't hurt, either. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide unparalleled views of the Marin headlands, the marina, and the Golden Gate Bridge—call ahead for a seat with a bridge view.
There is only one restaurant in San Francisco where you can dine underwater: Forbes Island. Situated in the middle of Sea Lion Harbor, the eatery is what Frommer's calls "a wonderfully ridiculous floating restaurant disguised as an island."
The food is classic American (filet mignon, wild-mushroom risotto) and secondary to the experience: Swimming aside, the best way to get there is via a pontoon ferry leaving from Pier 39. Have your camera handy for the ride, as you'll get a great vantage point for shots of Alcatraz, the city skyline, and the hordes of sea lions sunbathing in the marina. Once you arrive, you enjoy your meal in a dining room located just beneath the Pacific Ocean. The space resembles the underbelly of an elegant ship with wood-paneled walls, brass picture frames, nautical knickknacks, and portholes offering a peep of the bay's aquatic residents.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Peruvian-born celebrity chef Gaston Acurio has spread his native cuisine far and wide by opening iterations of his La Mar restaurants in far-flung locales, including Mexico City, São Paulo, and New York. Located wharfside, San Francisco's La Mar is helmed by executive chef Diego Oka and overlooks the Embarcadero; a seat near the floor-to-ceiling windows offers prime people watching over this bustling shopping district. The menu includes creative seafood such as pescado nikei, the catch of the day served over a bed of crimini mushrooms, ginger, scallions, and hot sesame oil. The San Francisco Chronicle recommends the causa casera, an appetizer of whipped potato, artichokes, asparagus, and avocado.
Aptly named, The View restaurant showcases a glamorous skyline vista from the top floor of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis hotel, located in the heart of the city. Thirty-nine stories above Union Square, you can belly up to the bar to enjoy a specialty cocktail such as a blood-orange sidecar martini and admire the glittering metropolis below. The food menu includes trendy takes on classic bar fare, including an Angus chuck burger and Midnight Moon macaroni and cheese.
If you want the best perch from which to marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge while you eat, you might have to leave the city proper. Try Caprice, located across the Bay in Tiburon. From the eatery's outdoor patio or window-lined dining room, you can take in views of Angel Island State Park, the bridge, and the water. Dungeness crab cakes and roasted Sonoma duck are among some of the upscale American offerings on the menu.